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Culinary Arts

How to Properly Store Wine at Home

Written by MasterClass

Feb 1, 2019 • 3 min read

One of the great pleasures of becoming educated about wine is curating a wine collection that is personal to your tastes. But choosing and buying wines are only part of the process—they also have to be stored. Stored correctly, wine can last for decades, even centuries, growing in value and quality. But poor storage can spoil even the greatest wines in the world.

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How to Store Wine

Collectors should follow certain protocols for any and all wine storage.

  • Keep bottles horizontal so the corks don’t dry out, which can cause seepage and premature aging.
  • Don’t put wine in your regular refrigerator unless you’re chilling it for immediate consumption. If you don’t have a wine cellar, you can use a EuroCave or wine fridge to keep your bottles at the right temperature.
  • If storing long term, keep wine in the dark. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can damage wine’s flavors and scents.
  • Make sure bottles rest in stillness. Vibrations are harmful to the sediments in wine and can disrupt the subtle process that causes wines to age favorably.

How to Buy Wine That’s Been in Storage

If you’re buying wine that has been in storage, you’ll want to inspect it for health. Look out for the following:

  • Labels: Note the condition of the label to see if the bottle has been stored well. Labels cannot be expected to be perfect on very old bottles, and a pristine label on a very old bottle may lead you to question its authenticity!
  • The neck: Wine is very sensitive to heat and humidity so you’re looking at the bottle for signs that it has been exposed to extremes of climate. High fill level (ullage) of wine at the neck of the bottle is a positive indication, while a lower level of wine may point to problems, and decreases the value of old bottles.

How Temperature and Humidity Affect Wine

Of all the factors influencing the health and well-being of stored wine, the temperature is among the most important. Unsuitably warm or cold temperatures is a sure way to spoil wine. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Storage temperature should be stable, because changes in temperature can cause the cork to expand and contract, letting wine seep out around it.
  • The ideal temperature for all wine should be under 68°F (20°C). The natural aging process of wine is slowed at lower temperatures.
  • Humidity should be between 60 and 68 percent. At higher humidity, labels will peel off the bottles, while at lower humidity, your corks can dry out, leaving the wine vulnerable to the effects of oxygen.

What Is the Right Temperature for Storing Red Wine?

  • Red wine should be kept slightly chilled, somewhere between 58 and 65˚F (about 12-19˚C). The precise temperature is determined by the age of the wine, with older wines being held better at 61-65˚F and younger wines on the colder end of the spectrum.
  • Tannins also matter. Reds with stronger tannins should be kept on the warmer end of the temperature spectrum than lighter red wines, which can go as cold as 55˚F.

What Is the Right Temperature for Storing White Wine?

  • White wines can and should be kept colder than reds. But they mustn't be kept so cold as to affect the aromas. They should be chilled between 45-55˚F (8-12˚C).
  • Sparkling whites should be on the colder end of that spectrum, as should sweet white wines.

What Is the Right Temperature for Storing Champagne?

Champagne should be kept coldest of all, at 38-45˚F (5-8˚C).

How to Store Open Wine Bottles

If an opened bottle of wine is stored properly, it can last 3-5 days. Here are a few tips for storing bottles you’ve opened:

  • Recork it. Recorking a wine is the best way to retain the wine’s original qualities. To recork, place some wax paper around a cork and slide it back into its original position. The wax will ease the cork into the top and also ensure that no stray parts of the cork drop into the bottle .
  • Use a wine stopper. When recorking isn’t an option—if the cork is splintered or you accidentally discard it, for example—wine stoppers are a good option. The rubber stopper creates a tight seal.
  • Vacuum seal it. Wine vacuum pumps (which usually come with a stopper) allow you to create a nearly air-tight seal, as they suck the air out of a bottle.

Should You Keep Wine in a Wine Fridge?

If your wine storage space is not climate-controlled, a wine refrigerator is a good idea. Wine can be an investment, and in that case a good wine fridge is a way to protect your investment. Wine fridges keep the wine between 50-60˚F (10-15˚C), but a good fridge will also have a cooler setting for champagne.